Integrated medicine is an approach to health care that combines both conventional and complementary therapies to promote wellness and treat disease. Utilizing both traditional Western techniques, such as medications and surgery, and complementary and alternative methods, such as herbs and acupuncture, integrated medicine emphasizes an individualized approach to the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of health conditions.
Integrated Medicine is healthcare that focuses on the whole person, and not simply the treatment of symptoms or an individual illness. It involves a partnership between the practitioner and patient using conventional medicine, along with evidence-based complementary therapies informed by scientific study to achieve optimal health. This type of healthcare takes into account all aspects of an individual's life, including physical, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental and lifestyle factors. The goal is to heal the whole person – mind, body and spirit – not just the disease or condition.
Integrated Holistic Medicine includes evidence-based conventional medical practices as well as complementary practices such as acupuncture; herbal remedies; massage; mindfulness-based stress reduction; relaxation techniques; physical therapy such as yoga and tai chi; nutritional counselling and lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation or exercise guidance. By incorporating these treatments with conventional medicine, practitioners can provide a comprehensive approach that emphasizes healing rather than merely treating symptoms.
This healthcare approach takes into account the physical, psychological, and social aspects of health. This comprehensive view of treatments combines conventional and complementary medicines to focus on addressing the whole person; meaning, not just providing symptomatic relief from disease, but rather aiming to support proper function and well-being of both body and mind.
Research has shown that an integrated healthcare approach may present numerous benefits for a person’s wellbeing. For example, it:
-Improves overall quality of life by helping patients reduce or eliminate their reliance on over-the-counter medications;
-Helps reduce stress levels which in turn aids in managing existing conditions or preventing new diseases;
-Fosters communication between patients and their healthcare providers;
-Offers diagnosis treatments which stay current with advances in medical science while also leveraging traditional roots of healing; and
-Equips people with healthy lifestyle tools necessary for addressing potential problems rather than simply treating symptoms once they arise.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a form of integrated medicine which emphasizes a holistic approach to treating the whole body, rather than focusing solely on symptoms or illnesses. TCM employs concepts such as yin and yang, qi, and meridians to diagnose illness. It also uses an array of herbal remedies, nutritional therapy, tui na massage, moxibustion, and acupuncture as part of its therapeutic approach.
At its core, TCM is about addressing imbalances in the body to restore wellbeing. Imbalances are often caused by external factors such dietary habits or toxins in the environment. TCM health care seeks to identify these imbalances and then use natural treatments intended to address their root causes.
The traditional Chinese view is that health depends on the maintenance of harmony between two forces: yin and yang. Examples of yin include coldness and passiveness – while examples of yang include warmth and aggressiveness. TCM employs physical treatments such as acupuncture, along with herbal remedies including Chinese medicinal teas and formulas made up of several herbs tailored to an individual’s condition. These ancient practices aim to prevent disease by correcting any disharmonies in the body before they manifest into illness or disease.
In addition to physical treatments, lifestyle changes are also usually recommended for lasting health benefits such as improved sleep quality and stress reduction in order to create balance in one’s daily life according to traditional Chinese principles.
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic health practice that helps to improve physical and mental health through natural methods such as diet, exercise, herbal remedies and mindfulness. Ayurveda is rooted in the traditional Hindu belief of the interconnectedness between all aspects of life: physical, mental and spiritual. It seeks to bring balance among the body’s energies (known as “doshas”) in order to optimize physical functioning and mind-body harmony.
Ayurveda has many hallmarks, most of which aim to improve detoxification as well as reduce inflammation. This is done through practices like massaging with oils, taking herbal supplements or undergoing periodic fasting or cleansing. It can also assist with enhancing digestive strength, managing emotions more effectively and helping individuals tap into an inner source of power and healing potential. Ayurveda practitioners strive to treat root causes rather than just symptoms. The practice emphasizes the importance of living in accordance with nature and taking an active role in our own health care by becoming aware of our body’s processes and how our daily decisions affect them.
Naturopathy is a type of integrated medicine that seeks to treat the whole body rather than individual symptoms. It focuses on preventing illnesses through natural methods such as diet, exercise, supplements, herbs and lifestyle changes. Naturopathy also emphasizes educating patients about their own health and wellness. The goal is to create balance within the body to improve overall health and wellbeing.
Naturopathy is based on the idea that everyone has an innate ability to heal themselves – this belief is called ‘vis medicatrix naturae’ or the healing power of nature. Naturopathic doctors use a range of natural therapies including homeopathy, nutrition, botanical medicine, mind-body techniques and hydrotherapy in order to restore health. Through these holistic approaches naturopathic doctors strive to stimulate the inherent self-healing potential already present within each person. Additionally, naturopathy practitioners also focus on preventive care in order to find early signs of illness or disease so they can be treated quickly and effectively.
Homeopathy is an integrative medicine approach that is based on the principle of "like cures like," which means that a substance taken in small amounts will treat a patient's symptoms, even if the same substance would cause those same symptoms if taken in larger doses. Homeopathic practitioners believe that treating individuals with highly diluted substances found in nature can stimulate the body’s own healing powers and restore balance. Homeopathic remedies are tailored to individual patients and their particular patterns of illness.
Homeopathy is most often used as primary care, though it can also be integrated into traditional medical treatment plans. Patients with chronic illnesses such as chronic Lyme disease or Multiple Sclerosis might find it to be beneficial when combined with conventional treatments and medications. Examples of homeopathic remedies include:
- Belladonna – used to treat fever, headache, inflammation, and pain relief
- Echinacea – Used for fighting colds, flu and infection
- Rhus tox – Used for joint stiffness and respiratory ailments
Integrated medicine practitioners strive to bring together the best of both traditional and alternative medicine. These practitioners take multiple factors into consideration when treating a patient, such as lifestyle, environment, diet, and evidence-based complementary methods. They focus on creating personalized plans for each patient rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. In this article, we will explore the different types of practitioners that practice Integrative Medicine.
In order to become an integrated medicine practitioner, in most states you must have a valid license as relevant to the type of treatment being practiced.
In many cases, practitioners are trained in proven conventional medical techniques and therapies. Depending upon the scope of practice, this may include obtaining a degree in medicine (MD or DO) as well as undergoing specific residency training and attaining additional Board Certification(s) when applicable. However, its important to note that not all practitioners are required to receive formal certificated training in integrated medicine — there are several who may choose to simply focus on practicing from their own specialty area of expertise.
In addition to training in conventional treatments, these practitioners will often seek out additional education and credentials within their chosen specialty of integrated care. Examples include becoming board certified for functional medicine or Chinese herbalism or achieving certification for acupuncture. Specific requirements may vary depending upon the state you’re practicing in as well as your specific area of expertise so it is important to research any potential opportunities thoroughly prior to applying.
Integrated medicine combines both conventional and alternative treatments to create a holistic approach to healing. This includes nutrition, lifestyle changes, exercise, and other holistic therapies such as chiropractic and acupuncture. Some of the most common treatments used in integrated medicine are herbal remedies, massage therapy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, homeopathy, biofeedback, and yoga. Let's take a closer look at what each of these treatments has to offer.
Herbal remedies belong to a subset of treatments known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The purpose of CAM therapies is to improve general health, or to prevent or treat a variety of medical conditions with natural interventions.
Herbal remedies are often made from the parts of particular plants, such as leaves, roots, bark, flowers and seeds. These plants may contain compounds that have healing properties similar to pharmaceutical drugs. There are some noted potential benefits of herbal medicines over traditional Western medications, including fewer side effects and lower toxicity levels.
However, potential adverse effects may exist for some individuals who use herbal remedies and it’s important to speak with your physician before starting any supplement regimen. Herbal remedies may vary widely depending on the region in which they are harvested and there can be significant differences in dosage recommendations among practitioners. Integrative medicine takes into account both traditional Western treatments as well as certain natural therapies when providing patient care, so it's essential that you discuss the use of any supplements with your doctor or other medical provider before beginning treatment.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest treatments in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a form of therapy in which thin needles are inserted into particular points in the body and stimulated manually or with electric pulses. These points have been proven to have specific effects on various systems and organs, such as the respiratory, digestive, circulatory, immune and nervous systems. This can help to release pain-relieving endorphins, promote blood circulation, reduce inflammation and stimulate nerve endings. In addition to helping treat many physical disorders such as chronic pain, fatigue syndrome and headaches, acupuncture has also been known to help with mental health disorders like stress, anxiety and depression by helping balance hormones and other body chemicals responsible for regulating mood.
Massage is the manipulation of the body’s soft tissues. Massage techniques include kneading, stroking, tapping, and pressing muscles and connective tissue with hands, elbows, and heated stones. Massage is used to promote relaxation, reduce stress and improve circulation while helping to stimulate the release of endorphins in the body. Clients may receive a massage alone or in combination with other healing modalities such as nassating – a combination of massage (the pushing) and pressure point therapy (the nassating). Massage can be beneficial for increasing range of motion and circulation; reducing tension headaches; relaxing muscle tension; easing joint pain; improving posture; relieving stress related disorders including insomnia, anxiety, depression and anger. In some cases it can also reduce recovery time from injuries or illness.
Integrated medicine is an approach to healthcare that combines evidence-based practices from both conventional and alternative sources to treat the whole person. While there is a growing interest in integrated medicine, there is still limited scientific evidence to evaluate how effective it is. This article will explore some of the research that has been conducted and the findings from this research.
Clinical studies are research studies that evaluate the effects of a medical treatment, a procedure, or an intervention on humans. Clinical studies can be sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, professional organizations, health advocacy groups and other entities. These studies are conducted in order to collect data on the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and treatments. Clinical trials play an important role in finding new ways to prevent and treat disease, helping to identify what works best for which people.
To study a drug or intervention’s effectiveness through clinical trials, research teams recruit volunteers for the study. Volunteers agree to certain conditions and follow certain protocols throughout the duration of the study such as taking specific medications, agreeing to certain testing methods or procedures and being monitored during particular lengths of time. After participating in the study all volunteers are usually assessed for their medical condition, quality of life measures and any changes that occurred during their involvement.
The results from clinical trials give healthcare professionals valuable information about how well a drug or therapy works, who might benefit from it most and what side effects can be expected with its use. Evidence-based results gathered through clinical trials help healthcare providers make more informed decisions when prescribing medications or other treatment options for their patients.
Evidence-based practices are treatments and therapies which have been rigorously tested through systematic research and review. When evaluating a specific integrated medicine treatment, evidence-based practices use two main principles: effectiveness in the real world, and safety for the patient.
The idea behind evidence-based medicine (EBM) is that health care professionals should assume a ‘critical thinking’ approach in selecting treatments for their patients, using the best available scientific evidence combined with patient preferences and values. This means that healthcare providers must consider how well a specific treatment works in everyday settings as well as whether it has any potential risks or side effects. It also requires examining both the ‘quantitative’ data such as clinical trial results, and ‘qualitative’ data such as case studies or anecdotal reports of successful outcomes to make sure health professionals choose an appropriate treatment course.
Integrated medicine is only becoming more popular with its flexibility and focus on patient needs. Practitioners must recognize while alternative solutions have been often used in integrated medicine treatments, no practice is efficacious unless it is weakly supported by actual empirical evidence or endorsed by established medical journals. Thus it is important to understand the limitations of alternative solutions being employed to ensure safe, responsible integrative healthcare practices remain today and in the future.
Patients should be warned that there may be potential risks and side effects associated with Integrated Medicine. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and headache. In rare cases, more serious conditions can result from or worsen with Integrated Medicine practices, such as prolonged adverse reactions or worsening of existing health problems. It is important that practitioners rule out any adverse reactions by conducting thorough physical examinations prior to commencing treatment plans.
It is also important to note that mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety may persist even after successful treatment plans have been implemented or completed. Additionally, people diagnosed with mental illness must fully inform their practitioner so they can determine a course of action tailored specifically for their needs and current level of distress.
In addition, it is important to be aware that modern pharmacological medications and techniques could possibly interact negatively with Integrated Medicine treatments if used in conjunction with one another during the same treatment course. Because practitioners may use herbs, dietary supplements, homeopathy, herbal remedies, acupuncture and other forms of conventional medical treatments concurrently in some cases it is important for individuals to fully inform their practitioner beforehand so they are aware of any potential reactions which might occur due to the multiple treatments being employed simultaneously.
Consultant in General Internal Medicine (GMC reg. number: 7541548) and Specialist in Complementary Cancer Care
MBBS, MRCIM (Spain), MSc Homeopathy, MFHom, Master practitioner in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy and Neurolinguistic Programming, MSc in Nutrition
Integrated medicine Doctor and Holistic Medicine Practitioner